Tag Archives: robots

Martian Dreaming

Had a really odd dream last night.

An old friend and I were the first humans to go to Mars, although the mission wasn’t initially planned that way.  The deal was, we’d stay in the lander, and deploy a number of robotic probes from our craft.

Once we got there, it became pretty clear that I hadn’t trained for the mission at all, asking my buddy what I should be doing, where my spacesuit was, and generally just watching him take care of a lot of the heavy mission-critical lifting.  At one point on that first day, a few of those probes malfunctioned; their wheels didn’t deploy, and we couldn’t move them around.  Even though it was night, and I’d have trouble locating the probes, I went outside, found them, and manually popped the wheels down.  Problem hopefully solved.

On our second day at the Red Planet, we realized it was awfully strange that I hadn’t needed my helmet to go out the day before; clearly, there was a lot more oxygen in the Martian atmosphere than was initially reported.  I had even gone out in bare feet, for chrissakes.  I decided I would wear shoes on day two, because you sure don’t want to cut your foot on a Martian rock, and get infected with some alien bacteria you’ve never encountered before, right?

So both of us head out in the morning on Sol 2, now with the bright light of day making the surrounding terrain easy to see.  In the distance, there was a strip mall and a Target store.  That seemed weird for Mars, too.  Looking up in the sky, we saw the Moon, and thought that perhaps we weren’t on Mars after all.  Turns out my friend Ben wasn’t very good at steering our rocket.  Despite his best efforts, we hadn’t even escaped Earth’s atmosphere, and after taking off from Cape Canaveral, we landed our ship in western Wyoming, thinking we’d reached Mars.

It sure was a fast trip.

Once Again, Without Emotion:

Contributing colleague David U. Schrubbe sends in a link today to a story posted by MSNBC about the work being done on “a package of software and hardware” (read: SkyNet) that will serve as an “ethical governor” for robotic war machines in the field.  The assumption here is that with adequate programming, we will be able to relinquish human control  and LET THE ROBOTS DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES WHOM TO KILL.  For once, I am NOT exaggerating on this point.

The arrogance is staggering, to assume that we will still ultimately be able to control machines to which we grant greater and greater autonomy and logic-processing.

Meanwhile, enjoy this musical interlude, certain to become the Robot Nation’s anthem:

Growth Will Be Exponential

Astute colleague David G. Schrubbe sent over a link about the first robot to make an autonomous scientific discovery.  A little blurb from the piece on labspaces.net:

Using artificial intelligence, Adam hypothesised that certain genes in baker’s yeast code for specific enzymes which catalyse biochemical reactions in yeast. The robot then devised experiments to test these predictions, ran the experiments using laboratory robotics, interpreted the results and repeated the cycle.

Just to reiterate, the robot did this WITHOUT HUMAN INTERVENTION.

Six Futile Methods For Delaying the Inevitable?

I read a post on New Scientist today that offered up six suggestions for developing robots that would be adequately submissive, docile, or otherwise non-threatening to humans.  While they are all reasonable possibilities, it should be noted that:

  • they admit that it’s “too late” to execute two of them
  • a third (Asimov-like laws) is dismissed as good for fiction, but not practical for real life
  • the remaining possibilities are not technologically feasible at this point

Of course, we all know that regardless of what we do to control the manner in which robotic intelligence develops, the robots themselves will probably have greater ideas down the road.

Hiding in Plain Sight to Gain Our Affections

New Scientist has a post today about a robotic rabbit with actual fur:

Yohanan’s new robot, dubbed the Haptic Creature, is designed to recreate that touch-based communication between pet and owner to inject an element of emotion into human-robot interactions.

Remember those stories from the Civil War about families fighting on both sides?  How much harder will it be to unplug your robot pets when they turn on you?

Machines Knows Science

From today’s Tech wire, “Mechanical Squirrels, Robot Lizards Jump Into Research“– here’s my fave excerpt:

Sarah Partan, an assistant professor in animal behavior at Hampshire, hopes that by capturing a close-up view of squirrels in nature, Rocky will help her team decode squirrels’ communication techniques, social cues and survival instincts.

And in related fictional news, it appears that the Cylons have been among us from the beginning, apparently for the exact same reasons.

Some Notes for Thursday

Couple random items from around the web for you this morning:

First, a short Obama ad about a summertime reprieve from the gas tax, with a good point:

Second, I do enjoy lists. New Scientist offers a list of the Top Ten Fictional Scientists in popular culture.

Finally, it’s exciting that Kyle and Robin will be headed to Thailand next month to pick up Thanu, but I’m a little conflicted on their plans for conditioning him to accept the reality of the coming robot menace. I guess it will be up to MY children to lead the resistance.
Thanu's robot overlords
And a PS, not from the webs, but from the real world– today is Grandma’s birthday. She is 77!

Destroying The Machines May Only Slow Them Down

David L. Schrubbe, a valued colleague and fellow sentry on watch for The Singularity, sent this link for video evidence of a robot capable of reassembling itself when destroyed. Imagine how pissed that robot would be if you gave it a gun.

firing from the hip since 2002